The first movie I ever went to see was King Kong. Thank you, Dad. The shit you sat through for me... The film we saw wasn't a revival of the 1933 Merian C. Cooper classic, (which Dad introduced me to thanks to the wonders of afternoon movies) but the 1976 Dino DeLaurentis version that a lot of people consider shlock.
Those people can kiss my buttocks.
Nostalgia trumps all in this discussion, as my memories of the film are vivid and powerful and important. It was pre-Star Wars in terms of the cross marketing potential. There were King Kong drinking glasses, and lunchboxes, and puzzles, and pajamas, and bubble gum cards, and I was doing my damndest at the age of 5 to be hip deep in all of that shit.
But the movie itself was a spectacle to behold. Rick Baker and Carlo Rambaldi's work, the creation of this ape of all apes, for a new "special effects age" may not have been mind-blowing, but it surpassed acceptable. (Word is Baker gives cinematographer Richard Kline all the credit for the King's visual success.) The score was (and is) unsettling and befitting the eighth wonder of the world and his rampage, as well as becoming quite moving during the poignant final moments of the epic. In my opinion voice-magic wunderkind Peter Cullen's vocal roar, is the greatest of all the Kongs. Fight Me.
I was star-struck and spellbound as a 5 year old, taken to the brink of suspense on numerous occasions. (Even if some dingus kid yelled out "bad breath!" when Kong blow-dries a soaking wet Jessica Lange, eliciting laughter from the crowd and disgust from me. Heathens. This may be where my hatred of the general public began. I love movies, concerts, and political speeches, but do these motherfuckers really have to be here too?) Kong's introduction at the gates, his fight with prehistoric snakes, the New York onslaught, and sadly, the reminder of the World Trade Center, all parts of a terribly entertaining, if not perfect film. There's a lot to love here to this day. And hey! welcome to Hollywood, Jessica Lange, and a young Jeff Bridges walks the walk that he will maintain for decades. Jeff is still the man. For an undertaking of this kind, held together in this pre-CGI era, you have to give director John Guillermin his due. Brava, maestro.
Released December 17, 1976, it is a fond Christmas memory for me, and always will be. My Dad, rest his soul, always engaged me in my love of film, even at a young age. This wasn't a Disney movie, or some Muppets Run Amok vehicle, Benji's revenge, or "(enter name of celebrity) meets a Chimp", the family films of choice in this era.
This was King Fucking Kong. And I was never the same. Sorry critics, but this movie slaps.
Thanks Dad for having the coglioni to bring your 5 year old to this event. Thanks to Mom, that Christmas, there was a metal King Kong lunchbox and box puzzle under the Christmas tree for me that year, and I got all 4 of the individual Coca-Cola drinking glasses that I believe were a Burger King promotion. All of which are now long gone to the gritty sands of time.
Ah, Holidays in the 70's.